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University of Coimbra says it did not know about the collaboration agreement with Russian professor

Vladimir Pliassov was accused of “Russian propaganda” by two Ukrainian activists, in an opinion article published in Jornal de Proença and later replicated by the newspaper Observador, having been dismissed by the University of Coimbra (UC), after these accusations were made public.

In a press release sent to the Lusa agency, the University of Coimbra explained today that, in the context of the war in Ukraine, the UC decided to end the protocol with the Russkyi Mir foundation (sanctioned by the European Commission) and that it chose to guarantee “based on own resources” the continuity of the Center for Russian Studies, led by Vladimir Pleassov.

The Russian teacher’s employment contract “was punctually fulfilled until the date of his retirement”, he said.

The UC stated that Vladimir Pliassov, after his retirement, “continued to direct” the center, an activity that was carried out based on a voluntary collaboration agreement, for free, with a start date of September 1, 2022, without explaining whether the agreement was signed with the Faculty of Letters of the University of Coimbra (FLUC), rectory or another organic unit of the institution.

“The rectory, upon becoming aware of this agreement, immediately terminated it in the applicable legal framework”, concluded the UC in a clarification note in which it does not mention the facts that underlie this termination.

The issue of the professor’s resignation was addressed on May 22, at the meeting of the General Council of the University of Coimbra, a body that requested information and clarifications from the rector, Amílcar Falcão, on the case, refers to the communication sent to the academic community to which the agency Lusa had access.

“The rectory provided information on the background of the case, followed by a debate”, says the communication, without giving an account of the content of that same debate.

On Wednesday, a petition signed by around 60 FLUC professors was delivered to the rectory, which criticizes the way in which the former director of the Center for Russian Studies was fired and defends a process of investigations by the rectory.

In a document entitled “For the right to adversarial proceedings and the presumption of innocence”, the professors state that “it was with perplexity” that they became aware of the “summary dismissal” of the director of the Center for Russian Studies, Vladimir Pliassov, without carrying out an inquiry “ that would allow him to respond to the accusations against him”.

“Regardless of other aspects involved, the signatories of this document consider that the situation creates an unacceptable precedent, susceptible of compromising the relationship of respect and trust between the University of Coimbra and its employees, to in addition to calling into question core principles of law and citizenship”, said the teachers, in the petition to which the Lusa agency had access.

Among the subscribers are several course directors (undergraduate, masters and doctoral) at FLUC, as well as the sub-director of the Faculty of Letters, Ana Peixinho, the sub-director of the Department of Philosophy, Communication and Information, Inês Amaral, the director of Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures, Paula Barata Dias.

The former vice-rectors Joaquim Ramos de Carvalho and Clara Almeida Santos, the writer and translator Frederico Lourenço (who co-directs the Classical Studies course), the former director of the General Library of the University of Coimbra, João Gouveia Monteiro, the vice-coordinator of the Center for Interdisciplinary Studies of the 20th Century, Luís Trindade and the Deputy Directors of the FLUC Language Center, Rute Soares and Alberto Sismondini, are some of the names that signed the petition.

One day after the resignation of Vladimir Pliassov, the rector of the University of Coimbra, Amílcar Falcão, refused to disclose the alleged facts that led to the resignation of that Russian professor, saying that the process did not and should not have associated any disciplinary process.

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